The thin line before crisis

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The line between success and crisis can at times be very thin. Just ask the owner, managers and employees of the Doubletree Grand Key Resort in Key West, FL. Just a few weeks ago, the property was bracing itself for the beginning of another busy winter season. With just 6,600 hotel rooms, a reputation as a party town and a frost-free winter climate, the Southernmost U.S. City is generally jam-packed with tourists.

On Dec. 27, that all changed for the Doubletree and to a lesser extent, the entire Key West tourism economy. On that day, a guest in the property was found dead and another rushed to the hospital. Cause of death was carbon dioxide poisoning from a faulty boiler. State officials immediately yanked the propertyâ€â„¢s certificate of occupancy for at least 90 days, or as long as it takes to fix the problem and rid the building of the noxious fumes. Now, charges are flying and lawsuits are in the works over the propertyâ€â„¢s installation of the boiler, allegedly without the proper permits and inspections.

Bottom line: The propertyâ€â„¢s lucrative winter business is down the drain to the tune of about $3 million lost. And the incident is having an impact on the cityâ€â„¢s entire tourism business. In addition to the 216 rooms in the Doubletree, the town lost another 729 rooms due to redevelopment to other uses, primarily condos. That leaves a shortage of rooms during the peak season, resulting in a loss of occupancy taxes and ancillary business for restaurants, retail, etc. Also, there may be residual PR damage to Key Westâ€â„¢s reputation as a tourist destination.

The entire sad and regrettable incident shows how vulnerable businesses are to disasters natural and man-made and that someone elseâ€â„¢s actions, even innocent ones, can dramatically affect you and your business.

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